Recurring Nightmare

bad dreams 1988

BAD DREAMS

3 Stars  1988/18/84m

“When Cynthia wakes up, she’ll wish she were dead.”

Director/Writer: Andrew Fleming / Writers: Michael Dick, P.J. Pettiette, Yuri Zeltser, Steven E. de Souza / Cast: Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Harris Yulin, Richard Lynch, Dean Cameron, Susan Ruttan, Damita Jo Freeman, E.G. Daily, Susan Barnes, Louis Giambalvo, Sheila Scott Wilkinson, Sy Richardson.

Body Count: 9 (+24)

Laughter Lines: “If you wanna fit in with the 80s, you’re at least two divorces, a condo, and a yeast infection behind the times.”


Of all the Elm Street rip-offs, just a glance a the name and details of this should tell you it’s one of the most overt. Although, being pedantic about it, Bad Dreams targets Elm Street 3 for much of its pilfer source, not least by casting from that movie Jennifer Rubin (who played ex-junkie Taryn) as the lead.

Rubin is Cynthia, the sole survivor of a mass-suicide at the Unity Fields cult in 1975, where self-styled prophet Harris (Lynch) poured ladles of gasoline over his flock before burning them and himself to death. Thirteen years later (finally not five, ten, or twenty!) Cynthia wakes from a coma and is placed into the mental care of Dr Alex Carmen and joins his therapy group of oddballs to assist her integration into the 80s (see Laughter Lines).

bad dreams 1988 richard lynch

Among the other group members are anger-prone Ralph, sex obsessed couple Ed and Connie, seldom spoken Lana, jittery journalist Miriam, and Gilda, who just mutters stuff about destiny. Their issues aren’t particularly clear or realised well, unlike the Dream Warriors kids, where individual personalities were nailed down with ease by Craven’s script.

Cynthia neither fits in, nor wants to be there, but when she starts to see her dead cult leader in elevator or walking down the corridors, she thinks he’s come back for her to complete the transition to the next plane of existence blah blah blah. These visions coincide with the apparent suicides of the other group members, who drown, fall out of high-storey windows, and in one icky case throw themselves into a giant ventilation fan, causing blood rain throughout the clinic.

bad dreams 1988

The cops who have been waiting thirteen years for answers around the cult’s demise see Cynthia as the common link between the deaths, despite the fact she has alibis for each, Dr Carmen is fired, and Cynthia put into isolation where Freddy Harris can get to her more easily.

At this point, Bad Dreams releases its twist, revealing circumstances to be much more earthbound than we’ve been led to believe. It’s unexpected and a decent deception, but it renders a majority of the film redundant and leads to a soggy climax that feels half-baked before the credits just start rolling and Sweet Child O’ Mine kicks in.

bad dreams 1988

It’s a bit of an ‘Oh… okay’ moment, but the film is at least well made, boasts some interesting supporting characters and witty dialogue here and there. The flashback scene to the cult wilfully burning their own faces is intensely and unsettling. More time with the therapy group characters would’ve added some sorely missing depth to proceedings and meat for the actors to get their teeth into.

So how much does it borrow from Kruegertown?

  • Set on a psychiatric care ward a la Dream Warriors
  • Heroine repeatedly taken back to a creepy old house in her dreams/flashbacks
  • Death by fire
  • Ghoulish otherworldly stalker who the ‘adults’ can’t see (sometimes) appears all burnt up
  • Cynthia put into isolation ‘for her own good’
  • Doctor dismissed by hospital for getting too involved
  • Two cast members from Elm Street movies appearbad dreams 1988 bruce abbott jennifer rubin

Blurbs-of-interest: Harris Yulin was later in Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take; Richard Lynch was in Laid to RestCurse of the Forty-Niner, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-do; Charles Fleischer, the doctor from Elm Street 1, appears here briefly as the pharmacist.

Lights on, nobody home

darkroom 1989

DARKROOM

2.5 Stars  1989/15/86m

“Where old passions develop.”

Director: Terrence O’Hara / Writers: Rick Pamplin, Robert W. Fisher, Brian Herskowitz / Cast: Jill Pierce, Jeffrey Alan Arbaugh, Aarin Teich, Sara Lee Wade, Allan Liberman, Stella Kastner, John O’Connor.

Body Count: 9


College girl Janet returns home to her rural family home for a break – joining mom, grandpa, her sister and her cousins, who live with the family after a suspicious fire killed their parents along with Janet’s photographer father some years back. His darkroom still exists in the basement of their remote house. Someone in the cast is sneakily taking photos of people before killing them, occasionally wearing a creepy worn yellow rainmack while doing so.

When Janet’s boyfriend Steve turns up, mom asks them to go look for AWOL sister Paula, who has shacked up in a trailer with a temperamental local who, it seems, has killed her, and attacks anybody else who crosses his path. Lots of running back and forth ensues, with all vehicles unavailable or immobilised, the phone out, and the nearest neighbours ten miles away… Ideal working conditions for your common or garden slasher killer.

A nice credits sequence and some good photography make Darkroom look better than expected, though for a Nico Mastorakis production, most of the kills are tame or occur off camera entirely; the killer’s motive is hazy and seems almost shoehorned in in place of something that would really wrap things up satisfactorily.

An okay 86 minutes but you might get more out of developing some old photographs.

Blurb-of-interest: Aarin Teich was in Bloodspell.

Time to sit down and give a darn about this yarn about a barn

the barn 2016

THE BARN

3 Stars  2016/88m

“On Halloween night the legend of The Barn awakens.”

Director/Writer: Justin M. Seaman / Cast: Mitchell Musolino, Will Stout, Lexi Dripps, Cortland Woodard, Nikki Darling, Nickolaus Joshua, David Hampton, Linnea Quigley, Ari Lehman.

Body Count: 26+

Laughter Lines: “I watched them eat a fucking face-burger made out of Russ’s head!”


A labor of love by creator Justin Seaman, whose vision was so strong that even when the film ran out of cash, most of the cast and crew stayed on to see it to completion.

The ‘lost 80s’ subset has given us the likes of The SleeperLost After Dark, Lake Nowhere, and of course The House of the Devil in the last few years as well as probably a barrel load more of films I’ve just not seen. Some of the capture the era perfectly, some pile on the Rubik’s Cubes, day-glo, slang, and Cyndi Lauper hits to eyebrow-raising proportions. Eyebrows being apt, they always give it away. Nobody was that preened in ’81.

The Barn is (wisely?) set in 1989, allowing for hairstyles and technology to look a little bit more likely than some of the other examples. For Halloween-obsessed nerd Sam, following the traditional rules of Trick or Treating is a vital life skill, even if it means he’s mocked for being too old to care by his dad and others when the season rolls around.

the barn 2016

For pranking uptight local Ms Barnhart (Linnea in cameo), Sam is tasked with gathering candy for the church. Or something. I wasn’t clear on the nature of this punishment, but he and his friends decide to attend a concert by Demonic Inferno and pick up candy in a town along the way. They end up in Wheary Falls, where, in the 1959-set prologue, a pre-teen copped a pick-axe in her head after knocking on the door of an old barn. Sam knows the legend, which shapes his trad. views on the subject, but when the six teens pound on the door of the same barn, they awaken a trio of Halloweenie demons who soon canter into town to gather ‘treats’ for their master.

After wasting a couple of Sam’s friends, the trio – pumpkin-headed Hallowed Jack, the Candy Corn Scarecrow, and The Boogeyman, who is a Satanic miner – off a few townsfolk before crashing a party and slash their way through everyone. Everyone.

the barn 2016

Sam and his pal Josh learn from a ’59 witness what they have to do and by when, and head back to the barn to destroy the three demons and prevent the devil from ascending for his All Hallow’s Eve feast.

The Barn isn’t strictly a slasher film, despite cruising close to those waters, its ’89 setting ties it in with the cross-genre films that came along at the end of the decade, tossing in ideas and motifs from various other horror sub-genres for a melting pot effect. The grainy picture and cigarette burns don’t necessarily convince me that films from [the real] 1989 were presented this way, harking back to the two films it brought to mind most clearly: HauntedWeen and Jack-O (the latter filmed in ’93 but aesthetically similar and with Linnea).

the barn 2016

The colorful playfulness and attention to detail is the main selling point here, buoying out some flat characterisations and a crucial lack of final girl-dom come the end, which flirts with a Bill & Ted-ish bro scenario. This is the kind of film you have vague memories of seeing at your friend’s house as a kid and want to randomly find on a cable channel around Halloween years later, crack a few beers and smile ear to ear for 90 minutes.

Blurbs-of-interest: Ari Lehman played Young Jason in Friday the 13th; Linnea Quigley can be seen in roles of various sizes in Fatal Games, Graduation Day, Jack-O, Kolobos, Murder Weapon, Silent Night Deadly Night and Spring Break Massacre.

New Direction

wrong turn 2021

WRONG TURN

3.5 Stars  2021/110m

A.k.a. Wrong Turn 7Wrong Turn: The Foundation

“This land is their land.”

Director: Mike P. Nelson / Writer: Alan B. McElroy / Cast: Charlotte Vega, Matthew Modine, Bill Sage, Adain Bradley, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Tim deZarn, Amy Warner, Adrian Favela, Vardaarn Arora.

Body Count: 20

Laughter Lines: “Remember it’s pizza-movie night. The boys picked something with… inbred cannibals.” / “Again??”


Stand by for a direction you didn’t expect with this series reboot, shot with the suffix of The Foundation, but then just given the same title as the 2003 original so’s not to end up in Children of the Corn territory with an endless array of “what number is this??” confusions. Try not to trip over some of the minor spoilers.

After five sequels of largely sub-par quality that weaved an ever more head-scratching timeline of events, it’s goodbye to Three-Finger, One-Eye and Saw-Tooth and hello to a mountain dwelling community of… people. That’s it really. People who live on the mountain, keep themselves to themselves, but don’t take particularly kindly to interlopers. That said, they’re not deranged murderers either, simply defenders of their land and way of life. They are… THE FOUNDATION.

wrong turn 2021

From the off, it’s evident that the budget and creative thinking has been massively overhauled (and the film even got a one-day theatrical run), as we join Matthew Modine’s stressed out father, driving into a small town by the Appalachians looking for his daughter Jennifer and her friends, who haven’t been heard from in six weeks. Echoes of the more sinister parts of the original (and the Friday the 13th reboot) abound as folks tell him people go missing a lot around there and never turn up – so STAY. ON. THE. TRAIL.

Of course, a diversion to go and look for some historical monument leads to an encounter with THE FOUNDATION and a log flies down the hill, killing one of the group gruesomely. Believing it to be an accident, but now lost, they camp for the night and wake up to find all their phones and one of their friends AWOL. Another trap is triggered and various panic and confusion culminates in short-tempered Adam beating to death a member of THE FOUNDATION with a log.

wrong turn 2021

The surviving friends are captured and put on trial by the elders, who all hang out in animal skulls and camo-garb (for hunting, they say), saying that nobody was going to kill anyone, but nevertheless sentence Adam to death and the others to ‘darkness’, which means the eyes are gouged with a hot poker and they’re left to fend for themselves in a cave. Jennifer manages to negotiate for herself and boyfriend Darius and they become members of the Hotel California that is… THE FOUNDATION.

Back to the present we come to join Jen’s dad as he ventures into the wilderness to find her, and the rest of the film follows their escape attempts, with some unexpected allies recruited along the way.

wrong turn 2021

The differences between Wrong Turn of olde and this reboot are stark, from being thirty whole minutes longer, there are no mutant inbred cannibals (see that Laughter Line – original writer McElroy’s sassy swipe at what’s been done to his vision?) and this steps as far as it can from being a backwoods slasher film, rejigging the entire franchise concept. Rustic traps do continue to feature for fans of inventive squishings and there are some spine tingling scenes involving the disguises used by the forest dwellers.

Good performances from Vega, Sage, and Modine pretty much compensate for all of the ropey amateur-hour acting of the interim sequels. However, the crowded supporting cast means that most of the others fade into the background: Two of the hikers are a gay couple (male for a refreshing alternate to the repetitive girl-on-girl stuff from Wrong Turn 4), but do little other than hold hands a couple of times before being summarily killed off; the others amount to little more than angry guy, quippy girl, and ideal boyfriend.

wrong turn 2021

An interesting premise with some nice ideas about societies that could’ve used a little more exploration. Will future instalments follow on with THE FOUNDATION or can we expect the ever-rubbery-masked trio of people-eaters to return?

Blurbs-of-interest: Bill Sage was also in Fender Bender. Writer McElroy scribed Halloween 4.

Farmville gone wild

the redwood massacre 2014

THE REDWOOD MASSACRE

3 Stars  2014/18/83m

“Evil doesn’t die easily.”

Director/Writer: David Ryan Keith / Cast: Lisa Cameron, Lisa Livingstone, Mark Wood, Rebecca Wilkie, Adam Coutts, Lee Hutcheon.

Body Count: 21-ish

Laughter Lines: “Maybe we took a wrong turn or something?”


It feels like the last ten slasher films I saw all started with a girl stumbling through the woods at night accosted by a hulking killer. Admittedly I roll my eyes, wondering if we’re also heading for some girl-on-girl and asshole characters.

Twenty years ago – never 19, never 21 – a farmer heard a voice from his scarecrow telling him to chop up his family. He listened, then offed himself. We don’t learn his name, but I don’t think it was Marz. Legend has it that his son, one of the victims, still haunts the Scottish woodland around the area. Why? Dunno. How? Shrug. I’m not sure it was ever explained. Either way, each anniversary attracts hordes of teens to the remote area for ‘the party of the year’.

the redwood massacre 2014

This time, gal-pals Pamela and Jessica rock up for a camping weekend with the latter’s ex, Mark, and his high-maintenance girlfriend Kirsty. Their other friend Bruce is supposed to come too but fails to show up. Hmm… After a few other schmucks are sliced and diced by the scarecrow-masked wacko, Pamela and Kirsty awake to find their friends absent, their phones unable to find signal, and so set out to find them, which leads them to the abandoned Redwood Farm, scene of the murders.

the redwood massacre 2014

Campers are axed, hacked, sickled, and have the old hand-pulls-out-insides gag happen to them. The Redwood Massacre revels in its sticky bloodletting a wee bit too much, allowing other considerations to slide somewhat. One character appears with a whole backstory, but is never allotted a name, claiming to be out for a revenge for the death of his daughter, then when the killer arrives tells him he’s not afraid to die and so…just does.

the redwood massacre 2014

Cliched dialogue and characters who pretty much hang around waiting to die (check out the flashback moment where the girl just lies in place despite having several seconds in which she could flee) are at least buoyed by a good score, sharp and impressive photography, and an almost Wolf Creeky sense of being lost beyond help once we’re down to the last respiring individual, all of which gives the film a fair leg-up from its shortfalls. It’s also Scottish, which means it’s full of sexy accents.

A sequel featuring Danielle Harris (!) followed in 2020.

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